The alleged leader of Asia’s largest criminal syndicate and one of the world’s most wanted men has been arrested in the Netherlands, with Australian authorities pushing for his extradition to be brought to justice on Sunday.
Police had been chasing the alleged drug lord Tse Chi Lop, 57, for several years until he was arrested by Dutch police on Friday and acting at the request of Australia’s federal police.
In a statement on Sunday, Australian authorities said a man “of significant interest” to law enforcement agencies had been detained. A police spokeswoman confirmed his name as Tse Chi Lop.
The Chinese-born Canadian citizen has been called Asia’s “El Chapo” with reference to the nickname of the Mexican drug lord Joaquin Guzman, who is now serving a life in an American prison.
Dutch police spokesman Thomas Aling confirmed that “a suspect who was on Europol’s most wanted list” was arrested on Friday morning after landing at Amsterdam’s Schiphol airport.
Aling, who spoke to AFP on Sunday, would not say where the flight came from.
“This person is currently detained and is waiting to see what will happen because it has to do with an Australian investigation,” Aling added.
“Extradition will take place at Australia’s request, and the case will continue to do so.”
“Australia would like this man,” he added, calling the suspect “a big boy” for Canberra.
Suspected leader of mega cartel
Tse Chi Lop has been named by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) as the suspected leader of the Asian mega-cartel, known as “Sam Gor”, a major producer and supplier of methamphetamine globally.
Sam Gor is believed to launder his billions in drug money through companies growing up in Southeast Asia’s Mekong region – including casinos, hotels and real estate.
Australia’s federal police said Friday’s arrest followed an operation that in 2012-13 caught 27 people linked to a crime syndicate spanning five countries.
The group was accused of importing “large quantities of heroin and methamphetamine” to Australia, a long-running lucrative drug trafficking market.
“The syndicate targeted Australia for a number of years, importing and distributing large quantities of illicit drugs, laundering profits abroad and living off the wealth obtained from crime,” said Australian police.
As part of the 2012-13 raids in Melbourne, police seized $ 9 million ($ 7 million) in assets, including cash, designer handbags, casino chips and jewelry.
The market of 60 billion dollars
The arrest of Tse Chi Lop almost a decade after the launch of the operation is a major breakthrough for Australian authorities.
The country’s attorney general will now begin preparing a formal extradition request for the alleged drug lord before trial.
Most of Asia’s food comes from the “Golden Triangle” border areas between Laos, Myanmar, Thailand and southwestern China that pump unparalleled amounts of synthetic drugs into global markets.
A UNODC study says that Southeast Asia’s crime groups net more than $ 60 billion a year.
The production of methamphetamine – either in tablet form “yaba” or the very strong crystallized “ice” version – as well as ketamine and fentanyl takes place mainly in Myanmar’s eastern Shan state, but much of the precursor chemicals needed to repair them flow across the border from China.
Thailand net 2018 more than 515 million yaba tablets, 17 times the amount for the entire Mekong region a decade ago, UNODC said.
Drug transports appear almost daily in headlines across the region, with traffickers finding more creative ways to send out their illegal products.